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A caesarean section is a procedure that is carried out so that a baby can be born without needing to go through the birth canal. In some instances a caesarean section ​may be elective, which means it has been planned after you’ve discussed it with your doctor, but in other cases, it may be an emergency operation, and therefore unplanned.

A caesarean section​ is major surgery

Medically a caesarean section​ is categorised as major surgery​. This means that it will only be offered to you as an option when your obstetrician considers that there is an actual clinical need. This is an elective caesarean section chosen after a discussion with your obstetrician.

Your baby will be born via an opening/incision under your bikini line. Your midwife is present in theatre so that she can take care of your baby as soon as he is born.

Can my birth partner be present during a caesarean section?

Whether your birth partner can be present during a caesarean section depends on a variety of factors. Firstly if the surgery is elective or unplanned. Even when it is elective both the anaesthetist and obstetrician need to agree that it is okay for your partner to be present.

When it isn’t suitable for your partner to be present, your midwife will be with you. Your partner will be allowed to see your baby as soon as it is safe after the birth.

what is caesarean section

What type of medication will I be given for the caesarean section?

When possible a caesarean section is performed after administering either a spinal anaesthetic or an epidural.

An epidural is a local anaesthestic that is injected into your back to prevent your feeling pain in that area of your body when an injection in the back to stop you feeling pain in part of your body.

A spinal anaesthestic is similar to an epidural however the medication is injected into the fluids that surround your lower spinal cord.

With either of these injections, you won’t experience pain but you will feel tugging until you give birth. The procedure takes from 30 to 40 minutes, and baby is most often born within the first ten minutes. There is a curtain present to ensure that neither you or your partner can see the procedure being carried out.

A general anaesthetic – which is the medication that puts you to sleep for the duration of a procedure – is only used when absolutely necessary. So this is more likely to happen in an emergency caesarean section.

What happens when my baby is born?

After a caesarean section, assuming both your baby and you are well, your baby will be put directly onto your chest in order to have skin to skin contact as soon as possible. If you are not well enough, your baby will be given to your partner to hold for skin to skin contact.

Your diet after a caesarean section

After a caesarean section, once you’re fully awake, the nurses will offer you sips of water. Then about four hours after the procedure, you will be able to have tea and toast, or coffee if you prefer. If all is going well then the intravenous fluids will be stopped at this stage.

Over the next day or two, you will have light meals. This is to give your bowel a chance to start working normally again, which it does by having a bowel movement or passing wind. You will need to drink plenty of water to prevent either constipation or dehydration. The catering team will offer you a daily choice of menu.

Taking care of the incision wound

After 24 hours, the dressing on your wound will be removed. At this stage you will be able to have a shower. Afterwards be sure not to rub the wound, pat it dry gently. Of course the wound needs to be kept both dry and clean.

Your midwife will check it each day. The stitches may be dissolvable or if they are beads or clips, most often they are removed after 4 to 5 days. Sometimes it may be necessary to leave them in for an extra couple of days.

You will need to wear panties that come up over the site of the wound, so as not to cause friction where the wound is. After the caesarean, the physiotherapist also comes to see you to talk to you about postnatal exercises.

Taking care of your baby after a caesarean section

Your baby will be at your bedside afterwards, unless he needs to be admitted to the neonatal unit. The team are there to help you and to make you feel a bit more confident each day in caring for baby. If you are breastfeeding then your midwife will help you by showing you positions that will not be painful for your wound.

Preparing for discharge

Most women do feel tired after a caesarean section, so you are not alone. Once you are informed about your discharge, let your partner know so that he can bring in clothes for both you and baby, and of course the car seat for the journey home. If possible try to feed baby a short while before you are discharged.

When you are back home be sure to rest as much as possible and accept help in the house and in caring for baby, from family and friends. Don’t drive or lift heavy objects until around two months after the operation.